So you’re working from home. Whether this is a dream-come-true or more of a nightmare scenario for you, there’s a whole world full of smart tech that can make your work-from-home weeks awesome (or at least bearable).
We’ve pulled together practical gadgets and a few extravagant splurges depending on how much you want to double-down on the work-from-home experience.
We know that most of us don’t have the money to suddenly deck out a full-blown home office, so we looked for budget-friendly solutions first.
Here’s how to set yourself up for success while working from home.
To stay productive and on task, you need a solid work-from-home setup. Here are some home office essentials—whether you’re putting together a permanent office or simply trying to survive the quarantine.
My work-from-home setup on the Elite Creations laptop caddy (ignoring my own advice to avoid propping up in bed!).
Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse
Don’t worry about wrangling all those wires across the dining room table. A wireless mouse and keyboard make working from home less tangled and totally portable.
Artek HB0308 Universal Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard
This affordable wireless keyboard comes in around $20 and boasts a six-month battery life. It’s compatible with iOS, Android, Mac OS, and Windows—plus it comes with seven fun backlight colors.
TeckNet 2600DPI Bluetooth Wireless Mouse
Click with freedom thanks to this Bluetooth wireless mouse that comes with a year-long battery life. You can pick it up for about $17, but you need to purchase the two required AAA batteries separately.
It might sound comfy to plop on the couch with your laptop, but it’s not the most efficient way to get things done. Thankfully, there are a lot of good desk options that don’t require you to assemble furniture or clear out the spare room.
Sofia + Sam Oversized Memory Foam Lap Desk
This little desk has plenty of room for a 20″ laptop and a mouse. It comes with a detachable USB light and built-in memory foam wrist support to keep carpal tunnel at bay. You can pick it up on Amazon for under $45, and it has free Prime shipping.
Say goodbye to paper waste with this smart pen and notebook—and (if you’re like us) take a break from kitty and puppy helpers inserting their two cents on your keyboard.
Reuse notebook again and again
Upload notes to Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, email, and more
Use smart search to scan notes
Starts around $30
Seville Classics Adjustable Mobile Laptop Desk Cart
You don’t have to give up your standing desk when you pick up this adjustable laptop cart. Adjust the desk from 20.5″ to 33″ with a simple twist-lock knob.
It also has wheels to move easily from room to room—a great perk if you’re sharing space at home with others who are working remotely or kids that are home from school. Get it for less than $35 on Amazon.
Whether you pick up a standing desk or work at the kitchen bar, this floor mat ensures that your back has the support it needs.
16 colors and designs
Non-toxic and phthalate free
Starts around $40
Hubs and Surge Protectors
Our homes aren’t always equipped to handle the demands of multiple devices that need power, charging, USB ports, and more. Ditch the aggravation (and low battery warnings) with these handy helpers.
HooToo USB-C Hub 6-in-1 Network Adapter
Get instant connection for multiple devices with this 6-in-1 USB-C hub. Expand your Mac’s potential with fast charging, HDMI output, and an SD card slot—all for under $40.
Cable Matters Surge Protector 2-Pack
You’ll stop fighting over outlets when you snag these affordable surge protector power strips. There’s room to plug in six devices on each strip, plus two USB charging ports. Get the two-pack for around $25.
Add this monitor to your home office setup for under $200. It doesn’t come with a lot of bells and whistles, but it gets the job done for a reasonable price. It supports laptops, Macs, PCs, and POS systems with both VGA and HDMI inputs.
Sceptre 27-Inch 4K Ultra HD Monitor
If you want to upgrade your monitor, this 4K monitor from Sceptre comes with built-in speakers, and a “Blue Light Shift” that’s easier on your eyes. Whether you have to dazzle in a presentation or take a gaming break, this $200 monitor delivers the crisp, high resolution picture you need.
Plopping down on the couch, sitting all day on a dining room chair, or propping yourself up in bed aren’t ideal working conditions. You’ll improve your productivity (and avoid aches and pains) with one of these office chair solutions.
Furmax Swivel Office Chair
This adjustable office chair comes with ergonomic lumbar support and it won’t break the bank. Give your back the support it needs for around $50.
AmazonBasics Modern Desk Chair
If you’re looking for style, this attractive desk chair adds polish to your home office for under $85 (depending on color choice). Its sleek design is small and contemporary. The seat and backrest are padded for comfort, but it doesn’t have lumbar support or arm rests.
Setting up an office space is one thing, but actually doing your work from home comes with its own challenges. Fortunately, there are a bunch of tech solutions available that make it easy to stay connected with coworkers, conduct meetings, and keep collaboration going.
There are a lot of tools that let you meet with colleagues and customers face to face—even if we’re all quarantined to our homes. Most of these solutions have free options or affordable packages for companies of all sizes.
Using virtual backgrounds in Zoom to liven up our morning video meeting.
This is one of the most popular video conferencing tools because it offers a multitude of features and plans based on your company’s specific needs. If you’re a consultant or freelancer and want to host personal meetings with clients, you can use the free version. For larger organizations, Zoom starts at just $20 a month per host.
Skype offers video conferencing options for individuals and businesses. Sixty minutes of video conferencing are included with a personal Microsoft Office 365 subscription, and businesses can use Skype for Business starting at only $2 per month per user.
A screenshot of what your very own Skype account could look like. I obviously don’t use it enough—there’s almost always 60 minutes left in my account.
For smaller organizations or occasional one-off meetings, Google Hangouts is a smart solution—especially if you already use the G-Suite. The cost varies depending on your G-Suite subscription, starting at $6 per month per user. Hangouts also has instant messaging, making it a multipurpose solution.
This was one of the first video conferencing tools, and it’s still a solid option. One thing that makes GoToMeeting stand out is the meeting transcription feature—no more pesky note-taking! GoToMeeting prices range between $14 per month for up to 10 people and $29 per month for as many as 150.
You don’t have to be in the same building to collaborate on projects or engage in some good, old-fashioned water cooler chats. These IM apps let you gab, gossip, and generate creative ideas right from your computer or smartphone.
You can use this instant messaging app on your PC, laptop, or phone. Create unique channels with specific members and directly message individuals or groups. Plus, even though it’s not a video conferencing tool, you can make individual video calls directly from the app.
In addition to instant communication, Slack makes it easy to share files, Spotify playlists, and funny gifs to help your team feel more connected when you can’t be in the same room. Pricing ranges from around $7 per month to $12.50, depending on the size of your organization and the features you want.
A screenshot from my Slack account—sharing WFH gifs with myself among other quarantine musings.
This relative newcomer is a more affordable option than Slack and includes many of the same features. You can choose from three plans that all include voice and video as well as instant chat. Troop Messenger’s rates range from $1 to $5 per month per user.
3. Practice Self-Care
It might seem like taking care of yourself is a no-brainer when you work from home. After all, what could be better than working in your pajamas all day?
But the quarantine realities of isolation and being homebound can take a toll. Use these tools and ideas to keep your spirits, your body, and your sanity in good shape.
Me rocking out in my bedroom office.
Do a Little Dance
Music is a great mood lifter. Whether you take a dance break every hour to keep the blood pumping or create a work-from-home playlist with your team on Spotify, the right tune can help you feel focused and connected to others.
If your midday jig will disrupt others in your home, use these headphones to get in the groove. Best of all, they also cancel out noise made by your roomie, significant other, or kiddos so you can focus.
$80 to $95 depending on color
30+ hours playtime
Keep Headaches Away
Staring at a screen all day wreaks havoc on your eyes and your brain. Here are some tools to keep you from reaching for the pain reliever.
MEETSUN Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Say goodbye to eye strain with these durable glasses that are designed to block that pesky blue light. Grab a two-pack for under $20.
CrazyCap UV Water Purifier Self-Cleaning Water Bottle
When you can’t run out to the store for new water filters, stay safely hydrated with this reusable water bottle. The cap has a built-in UV light to sanitize drinking water and stop mold and bacteria in their tracks.
In this time where the germs are out to get us, a bottle like this for everyone in the family isn’t a bad idea. Get your CrazyCap bottle for $70 on Amazon.
We all know that caffeine can help curb headaches. Replace the coffee you used to grab in the breakroom with a tasty homebrewed cup that stays hot all morning. This smart mug lets you set the exact temperature you want and keeps it there.
Priced around $80
Full charge heats for one hour
Charging coaster heats all day
Take a Break
If you felt like a workaholic at the office every day, it’s even harder to disengage from work when you suddenly share a house with it. Use these tips to make sure you don’t overextend yourself while working from home.
Set a Routine
Continue to work regular hours. That means a hard start time and a hard stop time. Let your colleagues or clients know your hours and then stick to it. It also helps to have a morning routine that kicks off the day.
Instead of lounging in bed an extra half hour because there’s no more commute, get up and savor a healthy breakfast, warm cup of tea, or extra facetime with your family. Then get dressed (even if it’s into work pajamas), run a comb through your hair, and get to work.
It’s important to clear your mind and enjoy some focused me-time. Use a meditation app to help you unplug from work and transition back to normal home life. This also helps keep anxiety in check if you can’t peel your eyes away from all the pandemic headlines.
Whether it’s stretching, yoga, pushups, or a jog around the block, moving your body is crucial. If you used to go to the gym every morning, find a replacement fitness routine that you can do while you’re stuck at home.
You should also schedule movement breaks throughout the day. A Fitbit or Apple Watch can give you hourly reminders that it’s time to get your blood pumping.
Have a Little Fun
Don’t forget to cut loose every once in a while. Use FaceTime or another video app for a virtual lunch break, socially-distanced happy hour, or game of trivia with your pals.
Staying connected when you’re restricted to one place will make a huge difference—to your personal well-being and your work productivity.
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Written by Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more